When we stayed at the Roosevelt Hotel –
mid-town on Madison and 45th –
in the ’90s we guessed it was much
as it had been when it first opened
in the ’20s, apart from the peeling
décor and service from central casting.
It was popular with South Americans,
whom, it was rumoured, were stingy with tips
so the Yellow Cabs by-passed the entrance.
In the Gents off the lobby I heard
the fabled Manhattan rhetorical
question: ‘Did somebody die in here?’
When the lights at 45th and Madison
showed red a young man on roller blades
produced a gizmo and turned them green.
On Madison Avenue – that highway
of catchphrase and hyperbole – we passed
one man saying to another about
a third: ‘He’s not got a pot to piss in!’
The windows were single-glazed so we woke,
on our first night, at four, hearing what we thought
were revellers in the street. Through the rear
of Grand Central Station kitchen staff
and cleaners – multi-lingual commuters –
were arriving from Queens and Spanish Harlem.
We breakfasted in the Gobi Deli,
now gone, round the corner on Vanderbilt.
The walls were postered with large, explicit
diagrams of the Heimlich manoeuvre –
as if choking were part of the menu.
We had seen no one on our corridor
throughout our three night stay. When we checked out
the door of the room opposite was open.
The plaster on all of the walls had been gouged,
hacked as if with an axe.
Grand Central StationHeimlich manoeuvreMadison Avenue Manhattan